(LEFT to right) Jaja Santiago, Alyssa Valdez — PVL

STAR spikers Alyssa Valdez and Jaja Santiago banner the 16-strong Philippine women’s volleyball team for the 31st Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Hanoi, Vietnam this May.

Mainstays Aby Maraño, Ces Molina, Dawn Macandili, Mylene Paat, Ria Meneses and Kat Arado with Majoy Baron as late addition after her exclusion in the initial pool are also in the cast of the team tasked to end the country’s 29-year gold medal drought.

Completing the squad are Deanna Wong, Jema Galanza, Iris Tolenada, Dell Palomata and Kat Tolentino with high school stalwarts Casiey Monique Dongallo and Jelaica Faye Gajero, who will see action in their first SEA Games.

The stacked team, under the watch of Brazilian mentor Jorge Souza de Brito, will have an overseas training camp in Brazil on April 12 after the Premier Volleyball League (PVL).

The PVL opens shop on Wednesday until April 9.

Aside from the women’s team, the Philippine National Volleyball Federation (PNVF) is also sending the men’s and beach volleyball squads abroad as part of its serious SEA Games bid and long-term program.

“We’re going on the other side of the globe to have an extensive training just before the SEA Games. All of these foreign trips are very important for our national teams,” said PNVF president Tats Suzara, who also thanked Rebisco, Philippine Sports Commission and the Philippine Olympic Committee for their backing.

The men’s team coached by Dante Alinsunurin will fly to Qatar on March 20 while the beach volleyball teams led by Sisi Rondina, Bernadeth Pons, Jude Garcia and Jaron Requiton were to depart for Brisbane, Australia last night.

Mr. Alinsunurin and his wards won the silver medal in the men’s indoor event while both the men’s and women’s beach volleyball squads captured bronze mints in the 2019 SEA Games held here. — John Bryan Ulanday